December 12, 2017 8:52:55 pm
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled out for now a plea to suspend the life sentence of a convict in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case pending the completion of the probe by CBI’s Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) in the larger conspiracy aspect.
The apex court said the MDMA investigation does not appear to have achieved “much headway” and could be “endless” and, under such circumstances, there could be two options for the convict — either to seek early conclusion of the MDMA inquiry or reopening of the case regarding him.
The court referred to the CBI reports filed in the matter relating to the plea of convict A G Perarivalan and observed that it does not appreciate his “single point agenda” that the sentence be suspended pending completion of the MDMA probe. “Your’s is a case where conviction has attained finality. Releasing you will be in an extraordinary circumstance. We do not know when the probe will end,” a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and R Banumathi said, adding “releasing at this stage perhaps will not be a correct thing to do.”
MDMA, set up in 1998 on the recommendations of Justice M C Jain Commission of Inquiry which had probed the conspiracy aspect of Gandhi’s assassination, is headed by a CBI official and comprises officers from IB, RAW and Revenue Intelligence and other agencies. “Your (Perarivalan) prayer is that you should be released till the conclusion of probe by the MDMA. MDMA is investigating the larger conspiracy aspect. From CBI reports, it does not seem that there is much headway. So this inquiry could be endless,” the bench said.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991 at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed. This was perhaps the first case of suicide bombing which had claimed the life of a high-profile global leader. When the bench asked advocate Gopal Shankarnarayanan, who appeared for 45-year-old Perarivalan, that he has not sought to reopen the case, the counsel said their review petition has been decided and conviction has attained finality.
The court then said that the matter required full-length hearing and posted it for January 24. The court also arrayed the Centre as a party after Perarivalan’s counsel said the Union of India was not formally a party in the matter. It also asked the Centre and the CBI to respond to the averments made by the convict in his petition and gave liberty to Perarivalan’s counsel to go through a report filed by the CBI in a sealed cover in the courtroom itself.
Shankarnarayanan told the bench that Perarivalan has spent over 26 years in jail and they had moved the Madras High Court earlier on the issue of conspiracy behind the making of the belt bomb, which was being probed into by the MDMA. The MDMA probe into the matter was still not complete, he said and referred to a report that said the person who was behind the making of the bomb was in a Colombo jail in Sri Lanka. He also referred to an affidavit filed by V Thiagarajan, the then superintendent of police of CBI who had recorded the confessional statement of Perarivalan under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
Perarivalan had earlier told the court that he was held guilty of supplying two nine-volt batteries which were allegedly used in the improvised explosive device (IED) that killed Gandhi in 1991. Referring to Thiagarajan’s affidavit, Shankarnarayanan argued that the officer had said that Perarivalan while making the confessional statement before him, had expressly stated that at the time of purchase of batteries, he had absolutely no idea for what purpose these were going to be used.
At the outset, d its probethe Centre sought some time from the bench for filing its reply on Perarivalan’s plea seeking suspension of his sentence till the MDMA conclude into the conspiracy behind making of the bomb. After being pulled up by the bench, the Centre placed before it the reply and the court perused the same. “We have gone through the reply. You have not answered the question. We had posed a very specific question,” the bench said, adding there was “not a whisper” about the affidavit filed by Thiagarajan and nothing clear was said on the aspect of suspension of the sentence of the convict. Thereafter, the counsel appearing for the Centre and the convict argued on the aspect of whether the state could remit the sentence of a convict in a case probed by the CBI without the Centre’s concurrence.
The Tamil Nadu government has already decided to set Perarivalan free by remitting the remaining portion of his sentence. The apex court had on August 17 asked the Centre and CBI to apprise it of the probe being carried out on the conspiracy aspect behind the making of the bomb after Perarivalan had claimed that this aspect was not being probed properly.
The apex court had on February 18, 2014, commuted the death sentence of Perarivalan to life imprisonment, along with two other condemned prisoners — Santhan and Murugan — on grounds of a delay of 11 years in deciding their mercy pleas by the Centre.
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